Add A Little Fanfare To Your Commencement

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Every year I have between five and eight trumpeters play for Baccalaureate and Commencement. The trumpet fanfares add a regal mood and “air of importance” to the events that not only look and sound nice, but also is a visual boon for the music department.

Many high schools and colleges have the traditional concert band or wind ensemble play for commencement. Some areas may have an organ or even a CD (not anyone’s first choice) play. Regardless of what you may do, it is a relatively easy thing to get a cohort of trumpet players together to do this and it adds a special flavor to the event(s).

My recipe for the trumpeters at our Commencement and Baccalaureate:

First, early on, I stress the importance to the undergraduates of performing for the seniors, creating a seriousness about the importance of the fanfare group. I talk about how they will appreciate the fanfares when it’s their turn to “walk”. I also have the advantage of talking about the time-honored tradition of this, as Dr. Edwin Arnold started this over thirty years ago at Grove City College!

I keep rehearsals to a minimum. I pass out the music a couple of weeks ahead of time and we only have one major rehearsal (Of course the amount of your rehearsals will vary to suit your needs). I’ve written dozens of trumpet fanfares for these events and have a variety of really easy to very hard fanfares to choose from. I choose the fanfares each year according to the level of my players. The great thing about trumpet fanfare music is that it’s easily adjusted to meet the abilities/needs of your players.

We also have two minor rehearsals, these happen about one hour prior to “show time”. This is a refresher for them and also allows me to go over the logistics one more time before we’re “on”. We tune, and tune again.

I have my trumpet players wear their marching band uniforms, without their hats and spats, for the performance. I also have them wear white gloves as I think they look “snappy”. I don’t require my trumpets to memorize their music for this event; we use marching folders. One thing I’ve added recently is to include a picture of the college’s seal on the opposite side of the music they are playing, facing the audience. It looks much better than the black or another piece of music!

We perform three fanfares for baccalaureate and two fanfares for commencement simply due to the walking route of each procession. We leave the Fine Arts Center about twenty-five minutes before “show time”. The trumpeters know they are “on” when they leave the building (I tell them to pretend they are “out and about” at Disney). I have them march in step, in a line, to their destinations. It creates quite a “stir” as the people watch the military precision of the trumpet line working their way through campus.

The trumpet players herald the procession for each event. Before the procession starts the trumpet players play their first fanfare, and believe me it gets everyone’s attention. People stop talking, start looking and start taking pictures. Then the trumpet players, single file march a quick step, in front of the procession to the next location to play another fanfare. Again, announcing the coming of the procession and the beginning of the event.

Finally, the trumpet players make their way to the final playing position (directly in front of the stage area where the commencement or baccalaureate ceremonies are taking place) and play their final number. After which they march off into the “sunset”.

All in all, it doesn’t take a whole lot of preparation and the payoff for the school, community, graduates and music program is great. Everyone remembers the heralding by the trumpets and it is talked about by almost everyone in attendance afterward. I’ve found that it really does add another level of “pomp” to the “circumstance” and everyone appreciates the efforts.

I’ll post pictures of our trumpeters after we finish commencement tomorrow.

Joe Pisano

[tags]herald, trumpet, commencement, baccalaureate, fanfare, music, trumpeters, grove city college [/tags]
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Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is an industry innovator, education clinician and lecturer, trumpeter and conductor, and the creator of many education websites. He is currently the Vice President of Innovation and Engagement at Keystone Ridge Designs, Inc. After twenty-three years as a professor and administrator at Grove City College, he made the move into industry in 2018.  As one of the youngest full professors in Grove City’s history, he served in various roles over his tenure including the Technical Director of the Pew Fine Arts Center, Assistant and Associate Chairs of Music and Music and Fine Arts, Director of Music and Fine Arts Technology, Director of Jazz Studies, Stage Manager, and he finished his tenure as the Director of Bands where he directed the college’s Symphonic Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Marching Band, Pep Bands, and various small ensembles.

He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award, the PA Citation of Excellence, and named a “member for life” of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators, an associate member of the American Bandmasters Association,  a past President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association, and a member of various education and music honoraries. He has written for numerous publications including DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and was the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine for eight years; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. He is an active conductor, trumpeter, clinician, and educator. Find out more at his website

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